Kids can't wait to learn

First Impressions stresses importance of early care, education

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For the next several weeks, we will highlight six programs that support women's health and newborn care. It is my hope that through these programs, the continued health of this very vibrant part of Colorado will continue to grow. Some of the programs that are going to be highlighted include Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Public Health Programs, Yampa Valley Autism Program, Newborn Network, First Impressions of Routt County, Horizons Specialized Services and Steamboat Mental Health/SEED Project. We all know how difficult it is to have good insurance and access to care, what we may not know is how many support programs are available for families in Routt and Moffat Counties.

- James M. Summers, DO/MS, FACOG, Director of Inpatient Obstetrical Services, Yampa Valley Medical Center

— The challenge for many families in the Yampa Valley is that both parents must work to afford the high cost of living, and childcare is a major concern. It is important that children are provided quality programs, but they are hard to find.

First Impressions is here to listen to the needs of the community and spread the message about the importance of early childhood care and education. Family support services are provided to parents and early childcare professionals to ensure healthy development of children.

First Impressions of Routt County works to ensure that young children will be provided adequate resources and quality programs to promote healthy development and school readiness. The First Impressions Board strengthens the community's collaborative web of resources where children and families experience dignity and a sense of belonging.

Who is this group and what do they do?

This Board is a very unique group in that it represents diverse aspects of all of Routt County and has existed for over 10 years. The co-chairpersons are Nancy Stahoviak, Routt County commissioner and Steve Ivancie, Steamboat Springs City Council member. The Board members represent health and human service providers, businesses, parents and educators from preschool through college. Why is this group so passionate about early childhood care and education?

Early childhood education is a good investment. Studies show that 90 percent of brain development occurs before age 5, yet public investment in children's education doesn't begin until children enter kindergarten at about age 5. Research shows that investing in young children pays off. Every $1 invested in early childhood care and education saves $7 to $19 in special education, health care, public welfare and the criminal justice system. Quality early childhood care and education helps businesses retain employees and increase productivity.

Children have better success in school and life when they have quality early childhood care and education. Kindergarten teachers want their students to be ready for school. This means children should be socially and emotionally able to work with others and focus on the tasks at hand. Thanks to First Impressions and local early childhood professionals, parents have access to the highest quality childcare programs in the state. Programs are held accountable through Qualistar Ratings, and childcare providers use authentic assessment tools in observing where the children are developmentally.

Currently, First Impressions is working on the following three goals: Educate the public on the importance of early childhood care and education; provide parent education to ensure healthy development of children; and ensure children will begin school ready to learn.

Events to look for:

- The "Parenting and Pizza" Educational Series is held monthly on topics relating to healthy development. This format provides free pizza and childcare to make it easier for families to attend after a long day.

- Month of the Young Child is held every April to celebrate children with special activities such as the Children's Parade and is sponsored by First Impressions, Routt County and the city of Steamboat Springs.

How can you help? How can you join the drive toward quality early childhood care and education? For more information, call Stephanie Howle, Early Childhood Manager at (970) 870-5270, e-mail firstimpressions@co.routt.co.us or visit www.firstimpressionsofrouttcounty.org.

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